Have Yourself a Merry Christmas

Well, it seems a little early to talk about Christmas.  But, not about Christmas music!  As we get close to Advent (begins this Sunday) and prepare for Christmas and the holiday season, you have a lot of wonderful offerings from the music community.  Indeed, there almost seems to be a revival of the Christmas song.  Lots and lots to choose from.

reasoning xmas

If you want a great two-track EP, get The Reasoning’s “It’s Christmas (Sing it Loud),” out today, and available from amazon.com and iTunes.  Rachel Cohen has the voice of an angel, of course, and it shows in every note she sings with one of the greatest prog/rock outfits around today.  Thank you, Matt Cohen, master of many, many things.  For those of you who shy away from prog, no worries.  This is just a wonderfully joyous song.  I think it could’ve easily been the finale to HOME ALONE.


Neal Morse, never unwilling to profess his own faith (in Christianity and in prog!) has two CDs out you might like.  The first, out last year at this time and still available, is a PROGGY CHRISTMAS–featuring just about everyone you could imagine.  As I wrote last year:

All of the members of Transatlantic (Portnoy, Trewavas, and Stolt), Steve Hackett, Steve Morse, and Randy George.  Portnoy is even “The Little Drummer Boy”!  Jerry Guidroz does his usual extraordinary mixing and engineering.

Also available–as a member of the Neal Morse Inner Circle–“Christmas 2013.”  These songs date back almost 20 years.  Very delicate as well as energetic.

leah christmas

Our own progarchist, lovely Leah, “metal maid,” has a gorgeous EP out, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”  Three tracks introduce the listener to our favorite Canuck rocker (that is, below the age of 60.  Sorry Geddy, Alex, and Neil) and the spirit of a metal Christmas.


Finally, out just since last Friday, is another progarchist album, In Dulci Jubilo.  This one comes from classical and progressive guitarist Kevin McCormick and his oldest daughter, Rachel.  My best description of this album is “immaculate.”  In Dulci Jubilo is 14 tracks long at 46 minutes.  A much more detailed review forthcoming.

With the Coming of Friendship: Kevin McCormick’s First Album

with the coming

This month at Progarchy, in addition to writing and analyzing about many, many things, we’re having a bit of celebration of Kevin McCormick’s first album, With the Coming of Evening (1993).  It’s been 20 years since it first appeared, and, sadly, this masterpiece is still relatively forgotten.

This needs to change.

It’s nearly impossible to label in terms of styles.  McCormick, much influenced by every great composer, performer, and group from Andres Segovia and Viktor Villa-Lobos to Rush and Talk Talk, brings everything good to his music.

A nationally award-winning poet, published composer (for classical guitar as well as choir), and professional classical guitarist, he offers his very artful being and soul to his music.  Like many in the prog world, McCormick’s a perfectionist in everything he does.  But, it’s not completely fair to label this album “in the prog world,” though it comes as close to prog as any genre in the music world.

Had With the Coming of Evening been released now, in the days of internet sovereignty, many would label this album as post-rock or post-prog, akin to the Icelandic shoe-gazing of Sigur Ros.  No doubt, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock hover lovingly over this work, though McCormick is always his own man.

Very much so.

Nor, would he have it any other way.  As humble as he is talented, McCormick would gladly take blame for any fault, and, being Kevin, he would rarely take credit for anything brilliant he produces.  He would say he discovered what is already, simply having been the first to notice it or remember it.

Still it’s his name on the work, and he recognizes that this comes with a certain amount of responsibility and duty–to all who came before him and all who will come after him.  McCormick would even want his inspirations to be proud of him.  After all, what would Mark Hollis think of just some ghastly American cover band?

No, McCormick is his own man.

My bias

I should be upfront about my bias.  I’ve known Kevin since the fall of 1986, when we were each freshmen in college.  Though we’d talked off an on our first month and a half of the semester, it was on a plane ride from Chicago to Denver over fall break that really allowed us to get to know each other.  After that, we were as thick as thieves.  Well, as thieving as two would-be Catholic boys could be.

As with all meaningful college friendships, we talked late into the night, read and critiqued each other’s work, had deep (well, at the time, they seemed deep) philosophical debates, talked (of course) about girls, discussed which albums were the best ever, mocked the cafeteria food, and so on.

The following year, we traveled throughout southern Europe and also the UK together.  I spent the year in Innsbruck, Austria, and Kevin lived in Rome.

When traveling together for three weeks in England, we paid homage to all of the great recording studios, tried to find Mark Hollis at EMI headquarters, and even (oh so very obnoxiously) thought we’d tracked down Sting’s house.  Kevin rang the doorbell, but, thank the Good Lord, neither Mr. Sting nor Mrs. Sting answered.

We also, of course, visited Stonehenge.

If we’d had Facebook, then, we probably would’ve visited Greg Spawton, David Longdon, Matt Stevens (was he in kindergarten, then?), Robin Armstrong, Matt Cohen, and Giancarlo Erra, too.  “Who are these crazy Americans knocking on our door!  Go visit someone like Mr. and Mrs. Sting!”

Our loss.

Our dorm room in Zahm Hall, U. of Notre Dame, Fall 1988. Kevin and his future wife, Lisa. Notice the stereo system and cassettes behind Kevin and Lisa.

Our third year, back at our Catholic college in northern Indiana, we shared a dorm room.  That year, I also hosted a Friday night prog show (called, can you believe it, “Nocturnal Omissions”–I really thought I was clever) on our college radio station, and Kevin would often co-host with me.  He founded a band, St. Paul and the Martyrs, which became the most popular band on campus, covering everything from XTC to Yes to Blancmange.

Our final year, I helped produce an extremely elaborate charity concert, and St. Paul and the Martyrs performed–the entire Dark Side of the Moon, complete with a avant garde film and elaborate stage lighting, followed by a performance (less elaborate in terms of production) of side one of Spirit of Eden.

Kevin and Lisa’s wedding. Notice Kevin’s ponytail. This automatically makes him a cool artist.

When Kevin returned from several years in Japan and (truly) traveling the world, we spent a few years together in graduate school, Kevin in music, me in history.

Kevin is godfather to my oldest son, and I to his second daughter.  We remain as close as we ever were.

What about the music?

Come on, Birzer.  This is a music site, not a “here’s what I did in college” site.  True, true.  But, so much of my own thoughts regarding Kevin’s music are related to our friendship.  Every time I put on one of his albums, it’s as though I’ve just had one of the best conversations in my life.

So, I’ve asked others at Progarchy to review With the Coming of Evening.  You know my bias–so, now I’ll state what I believe as objectively as possible.

Kevin is brilliant, as a lyricist, as a composer, and as a person.  His first album, With the Coming of Evening, the first of a trilogy, is a stunning piece of work, and it deserves to be regarded not just as a post-rock classic, but as a rock and prog classic.

It’s not easy listening.  Kevin takes so many chances and weaves his music in so many unusual ways, that one has to immerse oneself in it.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s like reading a T.S. Eliot poem.  No one who wants to understand an Eliot poem reads it as a spectator.  You either become a part of it, or you misunderstand it.

If there’s a misstep on the album, it comes with the 9th track, “Looks Like Rain.”  Its blues structure and blue lamentations stick out a little too much.  A remix of this album would almost certainly leave this song out.  It’s still an excellent song.  It just doesn’t fit tightly with the rest of the album–which really must be taken as an organic and mesmeric whole.

Kevin took six years to write and record the follow-up album, Squall (1999), and he’s ready to record the conclusion to the trilogy.

More on Kevin to come. . . .

IMG_1096.JPG - Version 2_face0
Kevin and I revisit Notre Dame, 20 years later. Kevin has cut the ponytail, but, otherwise, he’s not aged.

But, for now, treat yourself to his backcatalogue.  I give it my highest recommendation.  And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that he one of the nicest guys in all of creation. . . .


To order With the Coming of Evening, go here.

To read more about McCormick, go here.

To read what allmusic.com thinks of McCormick, go here.

Further Celebration: Kevin McCormick’s 1993 Masterpiece

And, progarchy continues its examination of a missed masterpiece, Kevin McCormick’s With the Coming of Evening.  This review comes from our own progarchist master of all things mathematical and stained, Tad Wert.

kevin solo guitar

Tad Wert: Kevin McCormick’s 1993 album, With the Coming of Evening, is a wonderful work that I missed when it was released. Fortunately, in this digital age nothing is lost, and hopefully this album will reach the wider audience it deserves.

The first track, Uncovered, sets the mood for the entire work, with acoustic guitar and McCormick’s tremulous vocals. At first listen, I was struck by the obvious late-period Talk Talk influence (Spirit of Eden), but there’s a lot more going on here than mere imitation. For example, there’s a lively middle section in Uncovered where a shuffling drum beat, jazzy organ and bass join in as McCormick sings the impressionistic verses,  “As the grain is wound and wound, it rings a new scar each year/Branches brace a part of me/And suns and rains, and suns and rains survive, the past completed./Few can graft the limb to soul and wind it all down to the core to cure the last, to cure the last./Waiting to be bound, waiting to be bound, ….” (I’m not sure about the exact words, since I don’t have a lyric sheet, but that’s what I’m hearing). So right off the bat, there is a very nice use of a tree’s growth rings to symbolize life’s tribulations.

Next up is an instrumental tune, Annual Ring (there’s that metaphor again!), that seamlessly links Uncovered to the third track, Summoned. While less than two minutes long, this is one of my favorite songs of the album. An insistent Eno-esque atmosphere swells up while an undercurrent of vibes and Eastern-styled percussion weave in and out. Before you know it, you’re well into Summoned, which is another Spirit of Eden-style song. However, this time around McCormick adds some nicely angular electric guitar that adds tension to the primarily acoustic mix.

Sho Song is another instrumental featuring a nice Japanese feel with flutes and arco bass. Imagine a peaceful Zen garden in the late afternoon, and this would be your soundtrack.

Ransomed is a more straight-ahead rock composition featuring electric guitar mixed up front with simple bass and drums accompaniment. It steadily builds in intensity, as McCormick delivers the evocative words, “Can’t see, but I feel, and I feel./That’s what he said up on a tree, when he ransomed me.” It’s a terrific song, and its abrupt ending lends it impressive power.

Rokudan is another linking instrumental with treated piano and an ominous underpinning of deep bass that slowly resolves into a beautiful motif that is repeated and slowly improvised upon. Think Harold Budd/Brian Eno here.

Without Breathing features an opening riff that is Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It” turned inside out. There’s a feeling of barely controlled chaos in this song, as the riff asserts itself over an energetic guitar solo.

Under the Meniscus is another nice instrumental that leads into the straight-ahead blues of Looks Like Rain.

Glimpses begins with some classically-styled acoustic guitar, which is soon joined by double bass and cello. Some tasteful electric guitar joins in as McCormick sings, “You’ve held back so long /Now is the time /In silence the pledge was taken /Relentless static is fulfilled /From the forest that I entered /To the desert where I ended /My feet have calloused /My heels are tuned in, turned on /And I hear you in great frequency.” To my ears, this is the centerpiece of the entire work, as musically it alternates between foreboding and dread to joyful anticipation.

KMPhoto1The Setting Sun is a nice little jam that recalls Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

The album closes with the beautiful and measured Elegy for the Empty Orchestra. Featuring a gorgeous melody played on acoustic instruments, this is the perfect closer.

With the Coming of Evening proudly wears its influences on its sleeve: a liberal amount of Talk Talk, a dash of Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, sprinkle in some tasteful Brian Eno atmospherics and Japanese modes, and you have sense of who and what McCormick admires. Add to the mix his excellent classically-tinged acoustic guitar work, his evocative lyrics, and impeccable pacing, and you end up with a very mature and moving work. This is music to employ when you desire space for contemplation. This is music that unfolds to repeated and close listening. Like the best literature, this is music that rewards the listener with new and deeper insights whenever it is revisited.

With the Coming of Evening by Kevin McCormick: A Celebration

Twenty years ago, exactly, the best album you’ve never heard appeared, Kevin McCormick’s With the Coming of Evening.  Over the next several days, we’ll be celebrating the release of what should be regarded as a post-rock/post-prog classic.  “Impressionist prog” might be a good label, if we didn’t despise labels so much.

Our first reviewer, Progarchist Extraordinaire, John Deasey.–ed.

with the coming

John Deasey: I’d heard the name, Kevin McCormick before, mentioned on various websites, as being akin to Talk Talk circa “Spirit of Eden” so it wasn’t a huge surprise to find subtle percussion, carefully phrased vocals, hushed, calm mixtures of woodwind, jazz, folk and prog.

What was a surprise is to find this album wasn’t a great success when it was released in 1993 and somehow flew under the radar.

Ahead of its time ? Well, if “Spirit of Eden” is anything to go by I’d say yes, this is the case.  Maybe the music world wasn’t quite ready for such an esoteric mix of styles, textures and atmosphere.

The Talk Talk influence is well to the fore, but rather than sounding like a Mark Hollis clone, McCormick sounds more like Nine Horse-era David Sylvain. Sonorous, tender, melodic and understated.

This really is an album to play in its entirety, save for a couple of tracks which could quietly be nudged onto someone else’s playlist perhaps. For example ‘Looks Like Rain’ really doesn’t belong here, with its bluesy, roots feel and good safely be culled on any personal re-mastering !

There are two Japanese inspired instrumentals.  The first – ‘Sho Song’ – is utterly fantastic for a minute or so, but then becomes tiring and a bit jarring.  The second – ‘Rokudan’ – is a wonderful piece worthy of any Craig Armstrong album with a definite cinematic atmosphere. This track also brings to mind the beautiful Sigur Ros EP ‘Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do’ with droplets of sound, texture and light forming a sonically wonderful vibe.

McCormick is a classically trained guitarist and it shows.  Tracks such as ‘Uncovered’ and ‘Summoned’ have a lovely understated style where his skill as a guitarist shine through.

What I like about this album is the generally un-structured feel to many of the songs.  They meander. They explore. They are given space to develop and nothing feels rushed.

kevin 1There is a very organic feel, as though the tracks are streams running over a rocky river bed, or paths gently traversing a grassy moorland.

I’ve mentioned in other reviews about my fondness for Scandinavian bands and their ease at creating space and breadth in their music.  This same feel is here and the end result is a spiritual, thoughtful, impressive album that grows with each listen.

It’s is also worth mentioning it sounds as though it could have been released yesterday, such is its relevance.

RUSH: A Farewell to Hemispheres, Part I

by Kevin McCormick

Rush appears to be a band without a retirement plan.  This past year saw the release of the highly acclaimed studio album Clockwork Angels, the subsequent world tour promoting the album and the fourth remastered re-release of the 35-year old classic album 2112.   With the re-release of that epic work and the renewed attention it has garnered, it is worth noting that the recording and the subsequent live shows were really, as the liner notes say, “The end of the beginning, a milestone to mark the close of chapter one in the annals of Rush.”

From Rushvault.
From Rushvault.

Neil Peart hardly could have known how accurate that statement would be.  Today the band is approaching its 40th year since its first full-length album.  Most artists of their age lucky enough to be still performing spend most of their time coasting on the tails of decades-old hits and playing as shadows of their former glory.  Rush seems to continually push itself into new territory creating an ever-changing sound yet with ever constant sensibility.  Something about Rush feels contemporary but remains rooted in the sound of three guys from Toronto four decades past.

Rock artists worked more quickly back then. By 1976, a banner year for Rush, the band had produced four studio albums.  Having resurrected themselves from the brink of extinction (or at least from being dropped by their label) with the inexplicable popularity of their futuristic totalitarian opera “2112,” the band toured extensively throughout the US and Canada.  Their “brief” stretch promoting the new album ran from February to August and included opening for Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith.  Somehow the band found time to put together a double-live album of those recent shows and, with but a week in-between, again headed out on the road from August and into the new year promoting that record, All the World’s a Stage. By the time they wrapped up in England in June of 1977, Rush had been touring for nearly two years without a lengthy break and receiving accolades not only for their recorded work but for the power, skill and intensity they brought to the stage.

Continue reading “RUSH: A Farewell to Hemispheres, Part I”

Kevin McCormick’s Squall (1999)

kcmccKevin McCormick, Squall (1999).  To my mind, this is some of the best rock music ever written—but tempered with very serious classical sensibilities and lacking the over-the-top bombast present in even some the best of 1970s progressive rock.

If one had to label his music, it would most likely be a post-prog, post-rock, or, simply put post-Talk Talk.  In the current realm of music, one might think of a mixture of Matt Stevens, Gazpacho, and Nosound.

McCormick incorporates his profound poetry as lyrics.  Each word—and the way Kevin sings it—seems utterly filled with grace and conviction.  This is part two of a rock/post-rock trilogy (he’s currently working on number three).  And, it’s hard to listen to Squall without listening to its equally fine predecessor, With the Coming of Evening (1993).  Kevin really has it all: a great voice, the ability to write poetry as lyrics, and the training of a classical guitarist.

Before I write any more, let me admit my bias.  Kevin is one of my closest friends, and he has been since we first met in the fall of 1986 as freshman at the University of Notre Dame.  We still talk and correspond frequently.  Kevin is the godfather of my oldest son, and I of his second daughter.

We bonded immediately on matters of music back in 1986.

Kevin and his two brothers had a well-known Texas band in the mid 1980s, and Kevin formed the finest band at Notre Dame, St. Paul and the Martyrs, during our years there.  Toward the end of our senior year, St. Paul and the Martyrs opened for the-then unknown progressive jam band, Phish.

During our years in college, Kevin and I traveled throughout the U.S. and England together (making sure to visit Trident studios as well as EMI (hoping to catch a glimpse of Mark Hollis) while journeying through the mother land of prog and New Wave), co-produced a “Dark Side of the Moon” charity show, complete with an angsty-movie backing a full performance of the album by the Marytrs, talked music and lyrics until late into the nights, and even co-hosted a prog rock radio show on Friday nights.

Not surprisingly, one of my greatest memories of Kevin in college was listening to the entirety of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden in 1988.  We remained completely silent for a very long time after its completion, stunned by the immensity of its beauty.

Kevin is extremely talented in a number of ways.  Not only is he the father of our beautiful daughters, but he has won national poetry as well as classical guitar composition awards.  In addition to the two post-prog albums (With the Coming of Evening and Squall) already mentioned, Kevin has also released several albums of solo classical guitar as well as an album of Americana, all recorded on an 1840s Martin.

His music has been praised publicly by many (see, for example, his entry at Allmusic) and privately by such luminaries as Phill Brown and Greg Spawton.

As of this afternoon, Kevin has finished mixing a Christmas CD, recorded with his oldest daughter on vocals, to be released next Christmas season.  And, as mentioned above, he is currently working on the completion of his post-rock trilogy.

Here’s Kevin’s music at CD Baby:  http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/KevinMcCormick

Here’s Kevin’s official site: http://www.kevin-mccormick.com/KM/index.html

I know we at Progarchy have offered lots and lots of suggestions for worthwhile purchases over the last three months.  But, as we begin this near year, I can state unequivocally that it’s worth supporting Kevin, especially as he prepares to record his new post-prog album.  I’ve only heard bits and pieces, but Kevin is a man of absolute integrity.  He is, like so many of us who either play prog or simply listen to prog, a perfectionist.  He also possesses one of the finest senses of beauty I’ve ever encountered in another.  So, while 2013 will probably NOT be the year of Kevin McCormick in the prog world, 2014 almost certainly will be.

Certainly, Kevin’s album should be one of the most anticipated releases of the next two years.  It’s worth beginning to anticipate today, January 1, 2013.




Some video links:




Music and Me

Me, sophomore year of college, fall 1987.

A few days ago, Progarchist and classical philosopher Chris Morrissey asked about our first introductions to music.

The youngest of three boys, born in the summer of love (September 6, 1967—only 3 months and five days after the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles), and coming of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I grew up on progressive rock: Yes, Kansas, Genesis, and the Moody Blues.  We faithfully shunned the 3-minute pop format and we sought mightily the 20- and 30-minute epics of European (usually liturgically derived) symphonic music with rock instrumentation and bizarre time signatures.

I remember hearing lots of longish, prog songs as early as 1971 or 1972.  Though I’ve never played an instrument with any degree of passion, I’m assured by my mom and two older brothers that I was obsessed with music even as a toddler.  Somehow, I figured out how to crawl out of my crib and down the stairs to the family stereo.  Even as a one-year old, I would wake the entire household up, blaring the Banana Splits or Snoopy and the Red Baron at 3 in the morning.

My first great awakening came, though, from seeing the sleeves of YesSongs.  I spent hours trying to figure out how the animals made it from one floating island to the next.  And, I’ll never forget the first time I played side one of YesSongs—I was overwhelmed by the depth and complexity of it.

As is now well recognized, the prog lyrics as well as the cover art tended to be fantastic, pretentious, overblown, and theological.  There have even been some interesting scholarly articles about progressive rock thriving in the western and midwestern states of America, mostly among middle-class, conservative kids.  And, of course, we, with great confidence, derided disco and top-40 music through junior high, high school, and college.  Disco and top-40 music, as we understood it, were decadent and vacuous.  As far as we were concerned, progressive rock artists (and some New Wavers) were the only real musicians outside of the classical and jazz world.

In many ways, progressive rock helped define my own childhood and teenage years.  I will never forget seeing abolitionist John Brown on the cover of a 1974 Kansas album (it sparked all kinds of historical questions re: Kansas, abolitionism, and the American Civil War); hearing Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 1979; being introduced to Rush’s 1981 “Moving Pictures” in the Liberty Junior High School library in Hutchinson, Kansas; or listening to Yes’s “Fragile” over and over again and trying to figure out the “deep” meaning of the lyrics.  In high school, I worked as on overnight D.J. at a local rock station (KWHK), which doesn’t exist anymore.  And, while in college at Notre Dame, I had a Friday-night progressive rock show (WSND) my junior and senior years, often playing two hour blocks of Rush or other groups.

As powerful as any of the albums just mentioned, though, was my first listen to Talk Talk’s Colour of Spring in the spring of 1987 and, even more so, my first listen to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden in September 1988.

My comrade in arms in college was the singer of the most popular band on campus, St. Paul and the Martyrs.  They even opened for Phish when Phish played on campus, spring 1990.  The leader singer, Kevin McCormick, even became my oldest son’s godfather!  Now, he’s a well-known classical guitarist and even a Progarchist.

But, I’ll never forget the two of us listening to Spirit of Eden for the first time.  We were just stunned and in complete silence as we explored every note and every silence of the album.

Having turned 13 in the autumn of 1980, I also, of course, grew up with New Wave: Thomas Dolby, Kate Bush, The Police, The Cure, Oingo Boingo, XTC, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Echo and the Bunnymen.  Over the Wall!

Our local Kansas radio station—KWHK—had briefly been formatted for New Wave, so I was able to get every new album sent by the record labels.  The one that hit me hardest was XTC’s Skylarking.

My college radio show at Notre Dame focused on progressive rock, as mentioned above, but I threw in a lot of New Wave.  New Wave just seemed the more radio-friendly version of progressive rock.  And, by the early 1980s, progressive rock seemed to have run its course.  Could Asia really claim to be the successor of Yes?  Or, could Genesis without Peter Gabriel or Steve Hackett really be Genesis?  We answered with a resounding “no.”  That left us with New Wave.

After all, in 1990, we still had a few years before Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard re-introduced—in the states—a new wave of Progressive Rock.

A quarter of a century later, I realize that music took on religious significance for me and my friends.  Those who embraced disco, pop, or top 40 music were heretics, and we supporters of progressive rock were the orthodox.


A year or so ago, some former students asked me to write about my listening tastes in the 1980s.  Here’s what I wrote for them:

High School was a long time ago for me, but I still remember it well.  During the summers, I had one of the best jobs in the world–I was a DJ at our local AM-station, KWHK.  Not only did I DJ, but I also got to write and produce commercials, and I served as a liaison between the sheriff’s department and the National Weather Service.  I grew up in central Kansas, so we had tornados and tornado warnings quite frequently.  Great job.  I’ve also been into collecting music (mostly progressive and alternative rock, some jazz, and a bit of classical) since second grade.  I started young, and, for better or worse, I’ve never stopped.  My kids (13 and under) can name bassists, singers, and drummers of the major progressive bands.  And, yes, I’m proud of them.

Freshman year of high school, 1982-1983.  It was freshman year that I really discovered New Wave.  I had been listening, almost exclusively, to progressive rock and what’s now called classic rock during the 1970s and earliest part of the 1980s.  The father of a friend of mine owned a record store, and we were introduced to all kinds of music through the store in 9th grade.  In particular, I listened to Thomas Dolby’s Golden Age of Wireless (favorite song: One of Our Submarines is Missing).  I had this on one side of a tape and ABC’s The Lexicon of Love (favorite song: 4 Ever 2 Gether).  Also lots of U2’s War (favorite song: Sunday Bloody Sunday).  Progressive Rock was never far from my heart, and I listened to Rush’s Signals (favorite song: Subdivisions) pretty much non-stop, Peter Gabriel’s IV (favorite song: Lay Your Hands on Me), and Roxy Music’s Avalon (favorite song: Take a Chance with Me).

Sophomore year of high school, 1983-1984.  This was a huge year for music.  Genesis released their self-titled album (favorite song: Home by the Sea, Parts I and II); the Police released Synchronicity (favorite song: Synchronicity II); and Yes released 90125 (favorite song: Cinema).

Junior year, 1984-1985.  Rush’s Grace under Pressure (favorite song: Between the Wheels) dominated every other album that year.  Frankly, this was THE album.  If I had to name a favorite album of high school, this would be it.  My sophomore year in college, I wrote a paper using only the lyrics from the album.  I even got an A.  I also listened a lot to The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow (favorite song: Please, Please, Please), Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party (favorite song: same as title), and Thomas Dolby’s second album, The Flat Earth (Favorite song: same as title).

Senior year, 1985-1986.  Another great year for music, but mostly for former proggers going pop.  Albums that year included, at the top of the list: Sting, Dream of the Blue Turtles (favorite song: Fortress Around Your Heart), Peter Gabriel, So (favorite song: In Yours Eyes), Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair (favorite song: Broken), and XTC, Skylarking (favorite song: The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul).  The other album I played constantly was the soundtrack to To Live and Die in LA (a pop band, Wang Chung, playing a very proggy style).  Lots of Kate Bush, Hounds of Love, too (favorite song: Hello Earth).

It wasn’t until my freshman year (1986-1987) of college that I really got into Talk Talk, the Cure, and Echo and the Bunnymen.  I also really liked Blancmange (kind of a really smart Talking Heads) and New Model Army and a few others.  That year, U2 released “The Joshua Tree.”  I’ll never forget sitting in the car with a friend, being about 1/2 through the album and just breaking down (not something I did very often) because of the beautiful intensity of the album.  Crazy.  At the time, I was horrified by RATTLE AND HUM.  Now, I think The Joshua Tree as a whole is really good, not brilliant.  Side two, maybe, is brilliant.  Side one has a brilliant moment–bullet the blue sky.  And, RATTLE AND HUM seems better than it did to me then.

In high school, I also remember listening to some A-ha, B-Movie, b-52s, Erasure, Depeche Mode, and Communards.  I don’t think I would’ve chosen to listen to these groups, but they would’ve been pretty hard to escape then.  I would’ve always preferred something prog–unless we were dancing.  Had an all night party at my house once my senior year when my mom was out of town.  Late, late into the evening, a group of us were trying to analyze a 1977 Genesis concert we’d taped off of PBS!  I’ll never forget that night.  Lots of analyzing Pink Floyd, too.